Thursday, August 20, 2015
THE GREAT MIGRATION
Migrating Wildebeests, Internet Domain
I was out wandering the green, rain soaked fairways of Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, NC, today in hot and humid August weather while observing the PGA Wyndham Championship. This year’s tournament took a turn for the better as one of the sport’s shining lights, albeit a dimming one, Tiger Woods, announced late that he would participate for the first time. The bad news is that this hasn’t been a good year for Tiger and he’s in danger of missing out on the lucrative playoffs for the season. But the good news is that his presence immediately prompted the sponsors to crank out thousands more tickets for the event and secure more parking space for the golf fans.
I had watched Tiger in his more competitive days in Charlotte at the Quail Hollow tournament. And it was first in Charlotte that the phenomenon of the superstar was first graphically illustrated to me. We had maneuvered about three holes ahead of Tiger’s group and were patiently waiting in a grandstand for them to approach the green. The fans began to slowly migrate around the ropes on either side of the fairway as the empty grandstand seats began to fill. By the time his group had made their way up to the green thousands of fans lined the fairway and the stands were packed beyond capacity. The same phenomenon was no doubt also occurring on national television. That’s when I first associated what I was visually witnessing with the great wildebeest migration in the endless African Serengeti and Masai-Mara ecosystems!
The annual odyssey of two million wildebeest grazers including 300,000 calves follows a regular circular pattern over an endless journey of 1,200 miles in search of green pastures. It's one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. One of the key events in this journey involves the perilous crossing of the Mara River between July and October. The wildebeest must navigate many hazards including ravenous predators such as lions and leopards that follow the vast herds and take out the weak stragglers. Then when the migrants begin crossing the Masai-Mara River in narrow groups, massive five-meter long crocodiles lying in wait attack them from the unseen depths of the water. Thousands of wildebeests never finish the circle of life each year. In October the herds turn the corner and head back to the Serengeti as the rainy season starts in Tanzania.
The game of golf also follows a rather circuitous path as individuals who religiously practice the sport engage in the game of playing fetch with yourself. We depart the first tee and circle around to the ninth green next to the clubhouse. Then we repeat another cycle off the back nine and again return to the clubhouse. The path is fraught with obstacles like sand bunkers, water hazards and even predators if you’re the betting type. But unlike the lions pursuing the massive herds on the Serengeti, the massive herds pursue the Tigers in golf. The fans anxiously move in lock step as they approach their prey. Occasionally, they even obtain a trophy autograph in their frenzied obsession. The majority are appreciative and well-mannered with the exception of a few stragglers who have obviously stumbled onto the occasional clump of locoweed. Apparently it triggers random outbursts of gibberish like “You the man!” and “Get in the hole!” which can become very annoying. I also observed a few red-shirted men wired for communication walking inside the ropes with the Tiger, presumably for security. Now, there’s a switch!
As we witnessed once again today, when their prey is finished grazing on the green and makes the turn to the back nine in search of greener fairways, the madding crowd likewise evaporates within minutes. And you have to wonder, if the Tiger walks into a perilous water hazard, will the worshiping herd blindly follow?